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Tania Napijalo and Valmai Walk.
Tania Napijalo and Valmai Walk. PAUL_BEUTEL

Finding your feet in residential care

VALMAI Walk is nearly 89 and having a tonne of fun. The great-great grandmother has been living in Blue Care's Riverlea aged care home for the past four years and loving every minute of it.

"It wasn't a hard decision to come here … I didn't want to be a burden on my children," she said.

Valmai, who grew up on a Bundaberg sugarcane farm, has five children, 12 grandchildren, seven great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.

She had been living at home with the help of one of her daughters, until it became a bit too much for them both.

"It was a bit scary at first but everything is good now."

Valmai Walk is almost 89, but she's got the social calendar of a 20-year-old.
Valmai Walk is almost 89, but she's got the social calendar of a 20-year-old. PAUL_BEUTEL

Valmai is clearly the life of the party around Riverlea, her loud and infectious laughter drawing people to her, as we chat in her room. Nurse Brenda pops in to find out who won the Scrabble.

Valmai certainly makes full use of the amenities, being a keen participant in regular games of bingo and hoy.

"They put on lovely concerts and bus trips, as well, and you can go to church here, too."

The doctor visits her in her room, as does her Lutheran minister, and an optician calls regularly.

The Blue Care nurses and carers also provide a regular grooming service, keeping fingernails and toenails just so, and Valmai has access to a hairdresser, dietitian, occupational therapist and pathology service, all in the privacy of her own room.

To top it all off she has regular visits from her family and has made a load of friends in Riverlea. To say she is content is an understatement.

 

Life-changing experience

Not all residents in a residential care community are as sprightly and engaged as Valmai.

As she says, "not everyone can be on their feet".

But Blue Care's skilled and caring employees and volunteers are there to help vulnerable people live life their way, whatever their circumstances.

Tania Napijalo knows this first hand.

Tania Napijalo is one of Blue Care's skilled and caring employees.
Tania Napijalo is one of Blue Care's skilled and caring employees. PAUL BEUTEL

Every day for 18 months she visited her mum, Monehu, at Riverlea, where her quality of life was the best it could be leading up to her passing in 2015 at the age of 69.

It was a life-changing experience that inspired a career change. A mother of two young sons, Tania, 40, has given up her career in retail to work at Riverlea as a carer while she studies nursing.

"I was coming here every day for a couple of hours but I felt helpless," she said. "I was giving her my time but wasn't doing anything practical."

Keeping her mother at home wasn't an option.

"Even if she had stayed at home I just wouldn't have known what to do," Tania said.

 

I was giving her my time but wasn't doing anything practical.

TANIA NAPIJALO

Now Tania is playing her part, and has seen new residents come in who, in her words, "weren't able to look after themselves well" and whose lives have improved markedly.

 

Range of services

Blue Care's experience and skill isn't deployed only in aged care homes. The not-for-profit organisation is one of Queensland's largest providers of in-home aged care, disability services and retirement living.

For 65 years, Blue Care has provided extensive support to people who wish to stay in their own homes.

It tailors a care plan for residents depending on their specific needs. That could mean helping with domestic chores such as cleaning and gardening, shopping, and grooming … or giving a loved one a break from the routine of caring for you.

And Blue Care works with residents to adapt their individual care plans as their situations change.

Blue Care also specialises in helping people with a disability meet their goals and achieve greater independence and quality of life, while offering respite care so a loved one is engaged and connected while their principal carer takes time out to recharge their batteries.

 

An emotional decision

Asking for help is hard for many people. They often don't want to be a burden, leave the home they love or be seen to be anything short of capable. All of those factors mean that making the decision to access support services can be emotionally charged and overwhelming.

Kathryn Pearce, Riverlea's Assistant Integrated Service Manager, knows it can be fraught but urges anyone considering transitioning to an aged care home to do their due diligence.

Kathryn Pearce encourages anyone wanting more information about aged care, to just ask!
Kathryn Pearce encourages anyone wanting more information about aged care, to just ask! Contributed

"Come and have a tour, come and meet the staff, meet the residents, have a look at the rooms and the activities … and then you'll get a feel for the place," she said.

"Just coming around and hearing the laughter, hearing how people are interacting with the residents, watching the activities go on … visitors go 'Gosh, this is quite nice!' "

Talk to anyone - such as Kathryn, who works in the assisted-living sphere - and the misconceptions about aged care soon reveal themselves.

"This notion that you come in and you don't have any independence, that it's the end of the road, is a myth," Kathryn said.

"People come in here and they have a better life and social life than they did before," she said.

 

People come in here and they have a better life and social life than they did before.

KATHRYN PEARCE

 

"Change is hard for many of us and if I was in that position I'd be anxious too, but if you come in and have a look at the community, you'll see that it's not the end of the line, there is life … there's life and creativity and happiness."

Valmai can attest to that.

Her advice for anyone new to an aged care home who's feeling a bit lost? "Just join in. Come to the activities. We always make new people feel welcome and make friends with them."

 

HELP TO LIVE LIFE YOUR WAY

Disability services

Blue Care is a registered NDIS provider and can provide a wide range of NDIS services, including support to:

  • Identify your goals and support needs.
  • Prepare for your NDIS planning or review meeting.
  • Build a network with local community groups and develop your social skills.
  • Try new and different things, including finding an activity you're passionate about.
  • Recover from an illness or injury or manage a more demanding or ongoing condition.
  • Stay healthy, happy and safe at home.

 

Residential aged care homes

Blue Care's purpose-built aged care homes make you feel right at home. When you move in, you're joining a community. You can keep up your hobbies or even find a new passion through the different activities on offer, or join in the social outings or occasions at the residence.

The residences are safe and secure, and you'll have peace of mind that the care you need is right there, 24/7, including access to a range of specialist health-care support.

Aged care can be the best way to ensure you, or your loved one, receive full-time support.
Aged care can be the best way to ensure you, or your loved one, receive full-time support. Bev Lacey

Residential dementia care and memory support

Dementia affects people in different ways and Blue Care understands everyone's situation is different. They'll get to know you and your family, listen to your experiences, and make sure you receive all the care and support you need.

Blue Care's memory support units are purpose-built to provide the best possible setting to deliver a high level of specialised and professional care to support people living with dementia.

You'll be in good hands with Blue Care's expert team of carers, who work to support residents living as independently and safely as possible.

 

Respite care

Caring for a loved one is a precious and cherished responsibility. It may, at times, also be demanding and overwhelming.

Everyone needs to take time out to care for themselves; to rest, relax and rejuvenate. Blue Care can help you take this time by caring for your loved one in one of its safe, comfortable and well-appointed aged care residences. This could be for a few hours a week, or a one-off longer stay.

Respite care is automatically included in some Home Care Packages, and it is also an option in the intensive recovery period after a stay in hospital.

Blue Care can support you in the home.
Blue Care can support you in the home. Contributed

Help at home

Blue Care's friendly and professional team can support you with:

  • Getting back on your feet after an illness or injury or managing more challenging health conditions.
  • Nursing services.
  • Everyday jobs like doing the dishes, cleaning and tending to the garden.
  • Keeping the pantry stocked with groceries and preparing healthy meals.
  • Travelling to and from outings with friends and family, or appointments.
  • Personal care so you're looking and feeling great.
  • Supporting the people caring for you.

Blue Care tailors the support so you can be as independent as possible and live life your way.

 

Retirement

Blue Care's independent and supported retirement living villages are designed to accommodate different lifestyle preferences. They range from comfortable one and two-bedroom units in traditional retirement villages, to premium resort-style homes complete with designer kitchens, modern bathrooms and beautifully landscaped gardens.

The retirement villages provide high-quality accommodation and access to care services, including help at home, personal care and nursing should you ever need them.